NEW YORK – Midge Decter, a leading neoconservative writer and commentator who in blunt and tenacious style helped lead the right's attack in the culture wars as she opposed the rise of feminism, affirmative action and the gay rights movement, has died at age 94.
Decter, the wife of retired Commentary editor and fellow neoconservative Norman Podhoretz, died Monday at her home in Manhattan. Daughter Naomi Decter said her health had been failing, but did not cite a specific cause of death.
Like her husband, Midge Decter was a onetime Democrat repelled in the '60s and after by what she called “heedless and mindless leftist politics and intellectual and artistic nihilism.”
Confrontation energized her: She was a popular speaker, a prolific writer and, as she described it, “the requisite bad guy on discussion panels” about the cultural issues of the moment. In 2003, she received a National Humanities Medal, cited as one who “has never shied from controversy.”
Calling herself an “ardent ideologue,” she faulted affirmative action for causing “massive seizures of self-doubt” among Black people. She attacked gays as reckless and irresponsible, and alleged that they had removed themselves from “the tides of ordinary mortal existence.”
Feminism was her special target. “The Libbers,” as she called them, “had created a generation of self-centered and unsatisfied women 'hopping from marriage to marriage,' resenting their children for limiting their personal freedom and pressuring themselves to have careers they might not have wanted.
The agenda of feminism was to leave a woman “as unformed, as able to act without genuine consequence, as the little girl she imagines she once was and longs to continue to be,” Decter wrote.
The poet and activist Adrienne Rich once wrote that Decter suffered from “a strange lack of information about the unfilled needs, let alone the enormous destructiveness, of the social order which she so admires.”
Responding to a 1980 article by Decter about gay people, Gore Vidal remarked that “she has managed not only to come up with every known prejudice and superstition about same-sexers but also to make up some brand-new ones.”